Well, putting up clapboards of course took longer than we had hoped — what else is new! But we are pleased with our progress and the final results, even though we did not get as far as we had hoped by now.
I will never look at a house with clapboards the same way again! I didn’t know anything about the process, and thought you’d be interested, so there is quite a lot of detail in this post.
First of all, the spacing. We learned some things about spacing the strapping that will make our lives easier on the next wall, and maybe have fewer clapboards that have to be cut to length. Even more significant is the spacing of the clapboards vertically, what is called the “reveal.” For example, if you want to have the bottom (thick) edge of the clapboard go cleanly across the top of a window or door, you have to figure out the reveal spacing ahead of time. You can vary the amount of reveal within limits, but you don’t want to change it more than one eighth of an inch at a time. Of course, we didn’t plan the window spacing in either direction to accommodate clapboards (no one does!). And you have to make sure your clapboards stay “exactly” horizontal as you put up each course. Each board has to be measured and cut to length (sometimes to an angle to accommodate roof lines). Every cut end has to be painted with primer. Where two ends butt up, a spline is needed — a strip of tar paper nailed up behind the joint. My job was to figure out where the joints should be (you don’t want those joints to be right above each other), to cut each clapboard (with the chop saw) precisely to length, paint the ends, and hand up the board to Tim (along with anything else needed). He used a “story stick” to figure out what the reveal spacing should be on each course, measured the length each board should be, nailed it up in the right place and level. These boards require nailing every 12 inches, and you have to hammer by hand as a nail gun will shoot the nail all the way through the clapboard. At the end, it is a good idea to fill the “cracks” where the ends butt up so water can’t get in. And then it is time to paint. Whew! One by one we got the job done! Here are some photos:
These are the pre-primed clapboards for the entire house, in our “garage” tent. They come bundled and in lengths from 6 feet down to 2 feet.
Here is Tim nailing in one of the clapboards that had to be specially cut out to fit around the porch roof beam. The spacing to the left of the window was carefully worked out so the board he is nailing fits perfectly across the top of the window trim.
We could only reach so far up with our stepladders, but new friends here were willing to loan us scaffolding and pump jacks, for which we are very grateful. Those allowed us (well, Tim!) to continue working up the height of the house. Here it is partly up:
The 4 “poles” are doubled 2×4’s that sit on the ground. Up just under the roof (you can’t see here) are double brackets that screw into the house (the wood sheathing that is under the tar paper). On the right you can see the scaffold on one side. It is held up by a bracket on each pole that you can pump up or down with the foot pump. Very ingenious, kind of rough, though!
Above is Tim raising the scaffold by pumping the jack. The pump jack is designed so that the weight increases the friction on the pole, and it can only move a short distance at a time.
Getting the scaffold platform moved sideways to get around the edge of the porch roof was a challenge! I used a long plank of wood to push up the far end from below, and Tim on the roof pushed from his end. Then we added the diagonal braces for stability.
Scaffolding even higher! The diagonal boards inside the gable are nailers for the frieze board trim. I don’t like heights at all — thank you Tim for doing all the up high work!
Tim is installing soffits, in this case (already painted) V-groove boards cut to length, one at a time. On the right you can see the pump jack, up as close as can be to the brackets that hold the pole to the house. One goes straight toward the house, the other is longer and movable so you can put it where you want, at an angle. Tim had to omit some clapboards to accommodate those brackets. The rope you see was so he could haul some items up (or down) in a bucket.
With the scaffold up high, each time Tim went up (or down) he had to crawl under those brackets — not fun!
Starting to paint while we still had the scaffolding. We also needed the weather to be above 40 degrees… He also added the frieze boards after this photo was taken.
Next job was installing soffits and soffit vents under the eaves. The frieze board on the right helps hold up the upper panel:
I got up on the scaffold (see proof below!) to help hold up the plywood panels for Tim to nail.
Tim got enough of the high up area painted (opaque stain) so we can finish the rest from ladders, and then we took down the scaffolding!
Here the scaffolding is just down! The poles are lying on the ground, the brackets still on them. The yellow tarp in the center is covering the chop saw.
We added the last missing clapboards, and painted like crazy (which actually took less time than expected). The little tan smudges are from filling the cracks between clapboard ends — gives an idea of how many butt joints there are!
With a few more days of “warm” and non-rainy weather before the first predicted winter storm warning, we got right to work on the reverse board and batten for the south part of the house — to go over the tar paper you see on the left in the photo above.
The boards and battens are rough cut hemlock (local, but not from our trees), and had to be primed on the back. I did most of that while Tim was working on trim etc. that I couldn’t really help with.
Using a roller made the painting go pretty fast…
Many old barns etc. are covered in board and batten, where the board is against the wall and the battens cover the small spaces between the boards. We are doing reverse board and batten with the battens against the wall and the boards just overlapping the battens on each side. This provides for an air channel behind the boards, similar to the air channel behind clapboards (between the strapping). However, the combined thickness of the boards and battens is greater than the clapboards plus strapping, so we had to figure out extra blocking around the window so the window trim would be at least even with the board and batten surface. Here is our first window:
We started under the window, after checking to see how the boards would come out around the window and at the two ends of the walls, and this seemed the best plan. We put up these battens, then painted with the opaque stain. The tricky part is the spacing. Since the boards are rough, they vary a little in width. At the same time you want them to overlap the battens by at least 1/2 inch, but you want to keep the space between the boards pretty much the same. And, the battens should be truly vertical, and sometimes they are not that straight. So we are having to figure out how best to get this done. Interesting!
With the window trim on, Tim is now putting up the first few boards. They get screwed in, and we found it worked well to start all the screws first, then put it up. We also tried painting the edges of the boards before putting them up, but it gets very messy, so that plan will likely change.
We put up the longer battens and boards, including the cut-out board around the window, discovering in the process that the 6 foot level is not accurate enough. We have to use a plumb line to get the battens truly vertical. We had to experiment with how to judge the spacing. So this was our learning curve.
We worked like crazy while we still had daylight, because rain and snow were coming in that night. We got some more boards and battens up, and even got them painted! And we also had to put lots of stuff under serious cover, ie, “batten down the hatches”. Tim even put our snow tires on after dark!
Here’s what our house looked like the next morning (11/20), with snow coming down (we got a couple of inches or so):
We are very excited to see our house looking so nice!
As you can see, we are deep into stick season here. But first we had the last of color –russet oaks and golden larches.
The beautiful colors of the red oak leaves, before they turn brown and drop.
Here are two of the larches (also known as tamaracks) at the top of our driveway. The front one is still turning golden, while the one to the left shows the later, orangy color. Then they lose their needles, as the larch is a deciduous conifer. These are the last trees to turn color in the fall.
There are still beeches and oaks with some brown leaves in the woods, but looking across the hills the landscape is grey branches, dark grey-green pines and hemlocks, ready for the transformation of snow!
We are now having colder weather, below freezing most nights, highs mostly in the thirties. We are hoping for a few more days we can work outside and at least finish that one board and batten wall! The rest of the house will be in tar paper for another year…
We are happy and healthy, and continuing to thoroughly enjoy being here in Vermont. We wish each of you a wonderful Thanksgiving!